Thursday, June 15, 2006

Victorian Birth Control

One of the most popular forms of birth control during the Victorian Period is still popular today—the condom—originally invented to protect men from the transfer of syphilis from prostitutes.

By the early 19th century they were being used by the upper-classes of England and France as contraceptives and were available as early as the middle of the 18th century at Mrs. Phillips store on Half Moon street in London. In the U.S. sea captains kept ships stocked up to protect their sailors from disease. In the early 19th century they were advertised in newspapers and available through the mail in the U.S.

Condoms, known by various names such as skins or safes, were originally created using animal membranes. The method used to make the better ones made them thin, strong, and also expensive—as much as 1$ per condom. Because of the cost, early condoms were washed out and reused. By mid-century were being made using vulcanized rubber. The prices dropped significantly, $3-$6 a dozen. They were readily available at druggists and through the mail.

The rubber condoms weren’t always effective however. Without our modern controls rubber condoms could be weak in spots which would cause them to break, and some might even have holes. They had seams running down the middle and were so thick as to seriously reduce sensation. Still, they were better than nothing.

In 1873, with the help of crusader Anthony Comstock, advertisement for birth control was outlawed under the obscenity laws. It was also illegal to send obscenity through the mail, which included condoms. However, there is anecdotal evidence through diaries and records that condoms were still available if a person knew where to find them.


Jenn said...

Great Blog! Really interesting posts...

Rebecca McFarland Kyle said...

Thank you! I'm looking for something a cook might use, but I very much enjoy your blog.

alison said...

What exactly were you planning to cook?